The hullabaloo over whether to license Floyd County's first microbrewery apparently comes down to a question of "quietude."
That was the outcome of 3 1/2 hours of wrangling Wednesday at a packed hearing on a license application for Shooting Creek Farm Brewery. It will be at least a month until a Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control officer issues a decision on letting the brewery produce up to 10,000 gallons of beer per year.
Held in a small room filled to nearly overflowing by the 40 or so people who attended, Wednesday's session explored what effect a new business might have on rural Thomas Farm Road. The several-mile stretch of gravel and dirt runs through pastures and wooded slopes near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Speakers put the number of occupied residences along it at between eight and 15. A recent state study found an average of 15 vehicles use it each day.
This was important, speakers said, because Virginia law bars granting an alcohol license in cases where it would "substantially interfere with the usual quietude and tranquility" of a place.
Neighbors who opposed the brewery plan stressed the "interfere" portion of the law, arguing that traffic and noise would inevitably rise.
Brewery representatives also provided letters from supporters of their plans. That support was rebuffed by the VABC Hearing Officer "because the purpose of the hearing was to explore the opposition." Readers will recall that the Floyd County Supervisors previously called a meeting to explore the opposition and failed to notify the brewery representatives beforehand.
The opposition's objections were listed in an article published in the Roanoke Times prior to the hearing:
According to ABC records, four neighbors and one pastor have officially contested the state licensing of Shooting Creek Farm Brewery. They are David Elliott, Jean and Paul Lacoste, Gloria Underwood and the Rev. Warren Brown of Faith Baptist Church in Check.
Their objections are many. Among them are fears that more traffic will exacerbate blind spots and other problems along Thomas Farm Road, the narrow dirt thoroughfare that winds through bucolic farmland dotted with old homes.
"People drive like crazy on this road," resident Gloria Underwood said. "And you get a bunch that's already toured the wineries [Chateau Morrisette and Villa Appalaccia] and then they come over here, and it's going to be a mess.
"We don't need no more drunks out there. And they can't tell me they can't get drunk," she said.
"It's the kind of traffic they really don't want in their area -- quite possibly inebriated," said Brown, the pastor.
"We see the other end of this thing," Brown said. "I see the ... dads in jail when they've messed up their life because they were drunk one night. Unfortunately, Shooting Creek is really not interested in what the people around there want."
So the objections are based merely on innuendo, not fact. If the visitors to the local wineries were driving around Floyd County drunk, the VABC would have already stepped in to revoke the wineries' licenses. I find the "Reverend" Brown's insinuation that craft beer aficionados are "quite possibly inebriated" to be insulting. Interestingly in the same article, economic development and tourism director Maureen Corum in nearby Nelson County states "We feel that these are the type of businesses that attract a higher-end traveler." Microbrewery patrons are typically baby boomers, who are more likely to drink responsibly and to patronize hotels and restaurants, she said.
A ruling from the VABC is expected in 30 - 45 days.
Previous posts on the Shooting Creek Brewery issue:
New Virginia Brewery Faces Opposition
Update on Shooting Creek Brewery vs. Prohibitionists
Update: Read Doug Thompson's excellent commentary at Blue Ridge Muse.